Strabo


Strabo
Geographer c.64 BC.
    Strabo was born at Pontus, but spent some years at Alexandria in Egypt; in the seventeenth and last book of his Geographia (which was written in Greek), he gives a short account of the geography of Egypt and other details about the country occur elsewhere in his writings.
    It is mainly geographical facts which are presented in his work, and these are generally considered to be accurate. He describes Alexandria and the surrounding district in some detail and he provides a topographical survey that lists some ninety-nine towns and other settlements, with information particularly about the Delta area. He and his friend, the Roman Prefect Aelius Gallus, probably made a journey as far as the First Cataract in 25/24 BC, and this apparently aroused his interest in many subjects. He refers to buildings, including the pyramids, tombs and temples, and he comments on the religious cults and some historical details. However, as with other Classical authors, it is necessary to assess these 'facts' with some caution.
    Strabo followed *Herodotus in the tradition of a Classical author writing about Egypt, and some of his comments are of considerable interest. For example, he mentions his visit to the Theban tombs in 27 BC and also the famous Nilometer at Elephantine, which was used for measuring the annual level of water in the river. Strabo was also the first to comment on the phenomenon of the singing stones in the Colossi of Memnon, which he visited when he travelled to Thebes. The Colossi— two great statues that originally stood at the entrance to the mortuary temple of *Amenophis III—were always an impressive sight, but after 27 BC, there was additional interest in them, because the northernmost statue was reputed to emit a singing noise at dawn; this 'wonder' was heard and commented upon by Classical writers, but Strabo was rightly sceptical about the 'singing statue'. Modern science has subsequently explained that this phenomenon was the result of an earthquake which occurred in 27 BC; it split the statue so that it broke in two at the waist and, when sudden changes in the humidity and temperature occurred at dawn, this brought about an internal action which set up a vibration in the stone. The statue ceased to sing when it was repaired in 199 BC, on the order of the Roman Emperor, *Septimius Severus.
BIBL. Strabo The Geography of Strabo transl. by Jones, H.L. (eight vols) London: 1932; Bowersock, G.W. Augustus and the Greek world. Oxford: 1965, pp. 123 ff.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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